Sign Up for WineMaker’s Free E-Newsletter
I am using Flextanks and oak chips for my wine and am really liking the results...
Oak chips, mesh bag?
I am using Flextanks and oak chips for my wine and am really liking
the results. However, I put the oak chips in loose and they clog up the
tubing and pump when I rack. I was thinking of making some bags out of
mesh to put the oak chips in, but was wondering about the mesh fabric,
imparting flavor to the wine. The fabrics I have found are nylon or
polyester. Would either of these be a problem in wine? (The reason I’m
not switching to oak cubes or spirals is I have a huge bag of oak chips
Marianne Pariseau LeSage
Like you I find oak pieces (segments, beans and sometimes chips) are a
great way to practice elevage (aging and development) with small lots
that won’t fit into a 60-gallon (227-L) barrel or for larger lots where
I just don’t want the hassle of barrels. If you’re using small pieces
of wood in winemaking, you guessed it, it’s a heck of a lot easier to
work with them if you confine them to a bag or a sack of some kind. My
non-coopered oak supplier of choice, Stavin (based in California) packs
their oak beans and segments in food-grade nylon bags. These puppies
are big however, weighing in at 20 lbs. (9 kg) each and are way too
large for most home winemakers.
So get creative with your oak bagging! I shop at my friendly home
winemaking store in Napa and (gasp!) even meander over to the brewing
section to pick up some food-grade nylon mesh bags of various sizes.
Friends of the Wiz use them for infusing hops or grain in their brews
but I use them for containing my oaky bits. You can also find these
bags online, again through home winemaking and homebrewing websites.
Don’t want to buy something new? I’m not sure if the nylon you mention
above is technically “food grade” but in a pinch I’ve known people to
use nylon stockings, loose-weave, undyed cotton fabric like muslin (all
natural material so nothing will leach into the wine) or several layers
of cheesecloth (undyed cotton).
If your chips are small, a very loose-weave fabric like cheesecloth
will definitely need to be layered several times to keep any little oak
pieces from coming out and getting into your wine. Simply measure out
how many oak chips you need (I tend to figure, for young red wine,
starting with 2 g/L ), cut enough fabric to hold them (you can even
split up your dose into two bags if you are adding a lot) gather up the
oak into a ball and secure with undyed cotton twine, fishing line or
other strong neutral tying material and suspend the ball in your wine.
If I’m making wine in a small stainless steel tank with o-rings welded
on the inside, I’ll actually tie the ball to the o-ring before filling
the tank. This keeps the bag submerged in the wine, where it will do
the most good. Also, you can weight your bags with spare stainless
steel fittings, clamps or endcaps — I always have a few spares hanging
around the garage because they’re what I use to seal my small stainless
Just make sure that whatever you put into your wine won’t leach
anything or break off into small pieces. Stainless steel is safe, as
are “food grade” plastics, non-lead ceramics and pyrex. As far as the
oak pieces or chips go, make sure that you shop around and try lots of
different brands. I have found large differences in quality between
suppliers; some products seem to be nothing more than the sweepings
from the barrel shop floor! Don’t forget that the smaller the oak
particles, the faster the wood character will extract and, in my
experience at least, the harsher the finished product. For longer-term
aging, try bigger segments (around 2 inch X 0.5 inch/5 cm X 1 cm).
Suppliers are coming up with new types of non-coopered oak all the time
so keep checking in.
Powered by Resources
This Free Trial Print Issue offer is only valid in the US and Canada. For print subscriptions to WineMaker outside the US and Canada, please click here.
To order a print gift subscription to WineMaker, please click here.
To order a digital subscription to WineMaker, please click here.
Free Trial Issue of Brew Your Own